Understanding Leadership Styles – Control vs Consensus

Understanding leadership styles is a critical part of becoming a better leader

“Leadership is the activity of influencing people to cooperate toward some goal which they come to find desirable.” ~Ordway Tead, Editor for Harper & Collins

Understanding Leadership Styles - Control vs ConsensusControl Vs. Consensus

One simplistic differentiation between leaders the amount of authority and control they feel is necessary to get peak performance from their team. On one side are those who believe that in order to gain a loyal following, everyone must be consulted and their opinions considered as the team decides on a course of action. On the other side of the leadership spectrum are those who believe that control, discipline, and decision-making are essential responsibilities of the leader to maintain order and to manage team performance.

A regimented organization ensures that plans are carried out strictly. When budgets are tight and deadlines loom, many leaders resort to stringent control to ensure that everyone on the team does exactly what they are supposed to do, in the manner and schedule designed. While this type of leadership is effective to a certain extent, a strictly structured work environment can stifle creativity and create a stagnant workforce that looks like a well-oiled machine on the surface, but lacks any initiative to progress or innovate.

On the flip side, some companies value creativity and initiative so much that leadership is deliberately informal and unstructured. People are indeed happier when their opinions are valued and they tend to be more cooperative when they have ownership of the decisions and actions that the organization takes. A loosely structured team generates more innovative ideas because the hierarchy that often holds back active exchange of inputs is gone or reduced. However, organizations that rely on consensus often suffer from delayed project completion or worse, deadlocks that paralyze operational momentum.

Striking a Balance

The most effective teams are those whose leadership effectively strikes a balance between control and consensus. If you are striving to be a good leader you must actively encourage discussions among team members and listen attentively not only to the verbal exchanges, but more so the implicit language of motives, expectations, and feelings of your team members. Most team building and professional development workshops are aimed at opening these lines of communication between leaders and their team, and between the team members themselves.

Conflict Management

To be a good leader, you must be able to manage personal perspectives and wildly varying personality styles to minimize and mitigate conflicts. It’s not a matter of if a conflict will occur within your team, it’s a matter of how you handle the conflict when it occurs. This may not come easy to young, inexperienced managers. The good news is that conflict management, understanding personality styles, and understanding leadership styles are skills that can be learned with the right coaching.

Open Communication

It is also important to make open communication a culture in the workplace. You must initiate conflict management activities to ensure that everyone is heard but within the strong structure of the company’s values. You must listen to the team and manage conflicting opinions and actions but you should also be decisive and commit to your decisions. While you can be considerate of everyone’s points of view, you need to exhibit determination and character to push the goals of the company. All these qualities are essential in your personal and leadership development.